Looking for some atmospheric literary fun this weekend? Do you enjoy a good mystery novel and want to support local businesses? The first annual Ashland Mystery Festival has you covered. 

From Friday, October 20th-Sunday, October 22nd, Ashland will be full of mystery lovers and mystery authors, celebrating their favorite genre. Ellie Alexander, the author of the Bakeshop Mysteries, which are set in Ashland and filled with familiar locations, has teamed up with the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and invited a group of her mystery author friends to town for a celebration of all things cozy and mysterious. 

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the appeal of the cozy take on a genre, whether cozy mysteries, cozy fantasy, and even making the case for romance as a cozy genre. While not all the authors featured at this year’s festival write cozies exclusively, Ellie Alexander specializes in them. Let’s review the Cozy Mystery Criteria. Small town? Check! Likeable protagonist with an average-person job? Check! Lack of gory details in the murders? Check! Little bit of romance? Check! Bad guys get what’s coming to them? Check! They even have the punny titles – in this case, all something to do with treats at a bakery. Like a good pastry, they’re fun, light, and very satisfying reading. Add a warm drink on a chilly autumn day and you have a recipe for an afternoon well spent. 

The weekend’s events can be found on the Ashland Mystery Festival website, where a quick perusal shows that a wide range of local restaurants, hotels, and shops have events planned, from author talks to recipe taste tests; from haunted walking tours to tea with an author. Some of the events are sold out, but there’s still room at many of them. JCLS’s Ashland Branch Library is getting in on the fun, hosting free author panels all day Saturday in the Gresham Room. They’ll be talking about the art of writing compelling mystery novels, from the elements of a perfect death scene to how to have a character tail a suspect. The panels are first-come, first-served, and seating is limited, so get there early for a good spot. 

The truly amazing thing about an intimate festival like this is the chance to meet authors in person, ask them questions, and get a window into how a great book is made. So often even our favorite authors feel like distant miracle workers, but at the Mystery Festival we’ll get to talk with them and learn a bit about who they are. For anyone who is an aspiring writer, meeting other, successful authors can be a big confidence boost. If they can do it, why can’t you? For readers, the personal connection makes enjoying the books an even richer experience. And it should be a whole lot of fun, too. 

Of course, you can find some great mystery novels (this weekend and always) at your library. Here’s a sampling of works by the authors who will be coming to town for the Festival, and a collection of lists featuring mystery genres across the spectrum. We’ve got Cozies of course, but also Noir, Locked Room Mysteries, Movie Mysteries, and more. If you’d like to pick up a book to keep, you can shop at the used book sale run by the Friends of the Ashland Library, which has a large collection of mysteries for sale. 

If you’re a mystery reader (or even if you’re just curious about the punny titles), take a look at the Festival’s lineup. It’ll be a fun weekend to walk around downtown Ashland, what with all the mystery in the air. And if you want to try your hand at solving a mystery yourself, you can pick up a clue to start you on your way to solving crimes as an amateur Gumshoe Detective.